Jack sat on the deck drinking in the warmth of a fresh spring day. It was early afternoon and the light breeze tickled the leaves of the newly green trees. It was an almost perfect day and he longed for the tranquility that it promised. He had risen early and fumbled half-heartedly through most of his chores, as the ache in his side grew constantly stronger sending a pointed reminder of his mortality.
He'd stepped inside to grab a beer when the mail arrived. He thumbed through it hurriedly noting the normal mix of bills and junk mail until his eyes fell on a single letter. He stopped short, surprise mixing with foreboding, as he stared at Sara's familiar, flowing handwriting.
They hadn't really kept in touch after the divorce. It had just seemed easier that way but they had talked by phone occasionally. Hesitant fingers ripped at the envelope and pulled the contents free as he returned to his comfortable chair on the deck.
It began "Dearest Jack" and he sighed at the sentiment. So much had happened, too much to ever be right again but in his weakest moments, he still missed her.
He scanned the words quickly and then started over again, reading more slowly. The letter seemed a bit disjointed as if she'd had a hard time writing it and he felt the familiar pangs of regret as he read her words.
". . . I'm moving on, Jack. It's time. Actually, it's past time. I'll never forget you or ever stop loving you but we both know that we made the right decision. We should have helped each other but we didn't.
I don't blame you anymore, Jack and I wanted you to know that. I am ever bit as guilty as you – maybe even more so but we have to go on. Nothing we can do will ever change the past; nothing will bring Charlie back.
I think he'd want you to be happy, Jack. I think he'd want both of us to be happy and I'm going to try and do that. I know you've changed. I've seen it the few times we've talked and yet, that darkness is still there, still holding you back, still poisoning your soul. Let go of it, Jack. Forgive yourself. Charlie loved you. He still does.
I've done a lot of soul searching over the years and I've read hundreds of books on surviving grief. Maybe they finally helped. I read a poem in one of those books and it reminded me of Charlie. It brought back the happy days – his smile, his enthusiasm and his unbridled joy at each new adventure. It helped me take that last, long step into the sunlight and I've decided that part of it should be with him for eternity. I had a new footstone set and only later realized I should have asked you. I hope you're not upset, Jack. I did it for all of us. It wasn't you that took Charlie away. It wasn't me either.
I'm sorry if I've upset you but I wanted you to know instead of you just stumbling over it some dark night when you visit.
Take care of yourself, Jack and I truly hope you find happiness again.
Jack folded the letter and went inside. He reached for his keys and was out the door before he even realized what he was doing. When the car stopped, he shut off the ignition and sat staring at the crisp rows of headstones.
The shadows danced across the landscape as the wind rustled the trees and the soft sigh of the wind filled his ears. Slowly he moved out of the car and toward the grave.
Each step increased the tightness in his chest as the memories flooded back and that final shot rang in his ears. He hadn't been here in such a long time. He didn't visit the way Sarah did, it was just too hard to walk away and leave him again. Red roses mixed with daises danced slowly in the wind and Jack knew they were Sara's offering. She'd always loved that particular combination and he suspected this was her goodbye bouquet to Charlie.
He stopped as he neared the stone to steel himself against the strong emotions that were already threatening then he kneeled and ran his large hand along the deeply carved letters.
"God sent me here to share your lives, then called me home to heaven's gate.
I left behind this little fact, you cannot kill what you did not create."
Jack read the words over and over until finally a single tear splashed against the stone. Then he stood and squared his shoulders, staring at the grave of his only son. The wind tickled his hair twisting it easily in it's fleeting fingers and finally Jack turned to walk away.
Sara had finally forgiven him. She'd made her peace with it and was moving on. As Jack stepped back into his truck he doubted he'd ever forgive himself but somehow he did feel a bit better. Maybe the footstone was a good idea. Maybe the thought of Charlie in eternal paradise would help turn the darkness to a lighter shade of gray.